“I have been taught that it is wrong to judge anyone. God is the judge. So, even though I don’t approve of the lifestyle of homosexuals, I don’t think I have the right to judge them. Is it wrong for me to feel this way?”
The same Lord who said, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged” (Matthew 7:1), also said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). It always amazes me that people who adamantly insist that we all obey the first commandment and completely refuse to acknowledge the other! Both are true, and when studied in their contexts, both are teaching the same thing. In Matthew 7:1 – 5, Jesus is saying that we will be judged as we judge others, so we must look to our own lives first. In John 7:24, the Lord shows that we are not to judge according “to appearance“ but that we should “judge with righteous judgment.”
Please note that to “judge” is an imperative of the Lord. Under certain circumstances, we have to judge, and we must be careful to do it as He directs us to do it: “with righteous judgment.” In other words, don’t be nitpicky or superficial but judge (and discern) fairly, correctly and solely based on what is right (God’s standard of what is right).
So what about “judging” those who are engaged in sin? In Acts 2:36, the apostle Peter told the Jews, “God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” He had no hesitancy about “placing the blame.” That is judging. The apostle Paul, in Athens, “judged” the idolaters by saying, “having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent“ (Acts 17:30).
In fact, when the gospel was preached to any lost sinner (as recorded in the books of Acts), they were told they were sinners in need of a Savior. If that isn’t judging, what in the world is it? When one is living a life that is obviously contrary to the will of God, they must be shown by the word of the Lord that they are sinning. That isn’t really “judging” that person; it is simply revealing God’s righteous judgment on that activity.
Concerning homosexuality, I want to make a couple of comments about how some Christians engage people.
The phrase, “love the sinner, hate the sin” is an example I often use. This slogan tends to be a pet peeve with me. Many Christians have a general understanding of what this phrase means. However, many (not all) in the LGBT community equate who they are with what they do. Some may not have the spiritual mindset to appreciate this adage. Christians can’t expect every person they come across to understand spiritual perspectives without a spiritual frame of reference (see 1 Corinthians 2, especially verses 10b – 14). So my first point is. . .
Well meaning spiritual platitudes don’t address core problems and issues. Don’t ignore how this phrase may create more pain in the very people it is intended to help. Demonstrate love, grace and truth.
“Love the sinner, hate the sin” is so overused, I would recommend that you make the conscious decision to stop using it. It short-circuits a Christian’s credibility. Whenever I hear these words, a very uneasy feeling overcomes me. I get a dreaded sense that the person being spoken to is being dismissed and is being talked down to.
Before we approach others, let us hate our own sin, let us ditch our moral superiority and let us get rid of our pride. Be humble. Acknowledge and affirm the other person. Relate to him as your equal. Listen and learn from him.
Think about what goes through a person’s mind when someone says to him, “I love you but not your sin”. That person may interpret what is being said to him as “you must remain celibate”, “you must go through life without a special someone to love”, “I am treating you, speaking to you and judging you based on your sexuality”, “I am discounting you as a unique and complex individual” or “my acceptance of you is conditional”. Secondly. . .
The grace, help or message we give should always be based on a Christ-like response to their needs and not our feelings and attitudes.
Treat your friend or loved one as an individual. Respect him the same way you would anyone else. Treat him with dignity. Our temptations, feelings, disposition, etc. do not define who we are. They define the ways we need to receive ministry and strength.
To summarize, “be quick to listen, slow to speak” (James 1:19). If we are presenting our viewpoint, stating our opinion, using our freedom of self-expression, proclaiming Biblical/Gospel truth or making moral and righteous judgments, we must use tact, consideration and discernment about how and when we engage others. Let us use our words responsibly.
I have created an entire blog devoted to my perspective about how a Christian should relate to people who experience same-gender attractions, have a homosexual orientation or self-identify as gay. You can click here to go to that site. Thanks for your question.